ページの画像
PDF
ePub

to betray him, and put him off his defence ;-when musick likewise hath lent her aid, and tried her pow. er upon the passions ;-when the voice of singing men, and the voice of singing women, with the sound of the viol and the lute, have broke in upon his soul, and in some tender notes have touched the secret springs of rapture,—that moment let us dissect and look into his heart :-see how vain ! how weak! how empty a thing it is! look through its several recesse's,-those pure mansions formed for the reception of innocence and virtue :-sad spectacle! behold those fair inhabitants now dispossessed, -turned out of their sacred dwelling, to make room, -for what?-at the best for levity and indiscretion, -perhaps for folly ;-it may be for more impure guests, which possibly, in so general a riot of the mind and senses, may take occasion to enter unsus. pected at the same time.

In a scene and desposition thus described,-can the most cautious say,_thus far shall my desires go, and no farther? or will the coolest and most circumspect say, when pleasure has taken full possession of his heart, that no thought nor purpose shall arise there which he would have concealed ? in those loose and unguarded moments, the imagination is not always at command ;-in spite of reason and reflection, it will forcibly carry him sometimes whither he would not like the unclean spirit, in the parent's sad description of his child's case, which took him, and oft-times cast him into the fire to destroy him; and wheręsoever it taketh him it teareth him, and hardly departeth from him.

But this, you'll say, is the worst account of what the mind may suffer here.

Why may we not make more favourable suppositions ?—that numbers, by exercise and custom to such encounters, learn gradually to despise and triumph over them ;-that the minds of many are not so susceptible of warm impressions, or so badly fortified against them, that pleasure should easily corrupt or soften them ;-that it would be hard to suppose, of the great multitudes which daily throng and press into this house of feasting, but that numbers come out of it again with all the innocence with which they entered ;-and that, if both sexes are included in the computation, what fair examples shall we see of many of so pure and chaste a turn of mind, that the house of feasting, with all its charms and temptations, was never able to excite a thought, or awaken an inclination which virtue need ta blush at, -or which the most scrupulous conscience might not support. God forbid we should say otherwise : -no doubt, numbers of all ages escape unhurt, and get off this dangerous sea without shipwreck. Yet are they not to be reckoned amongst the most fortunate adventurers ;-and though one would not absolutely prohibit the attempt, or be so cynical as to condemn every one who tries it, since there are so many, I suppose, who cannot well do otherwise, and whose condition and situation in life unavoidably force them upon it,--yet we may be allowed to describe this fair and flattering coast we may point out the unsuspected dangers of it, and warn the unwary passenger where they lie. We may shew him what hazards his youth and inexperience will run, how little he can gain by the venture, and how much viser and better it would be (as is implied in the text) to seek occasions rather to improve his little

stock of virtue, than incautiously expose it to so unequal a chance, where the best he can hope is to return safe with what treasure he carried out, but where, probably, he may be so unfortunate as to lose it all,—be lost himself,—and undone for ever.

Thus much for the house of feasting; which, by the way, though generally open at other times of the year throughout the world, is supposed, in christian countries, now 'everywhere to be universally shut up. And, in truth, I have been more full in my cautions against it, not only as reason requires-but in reverence to this season,* wherein our church exacts a more particular forbearance and self-denial in this point, and thereby adds to the restraints upon pleasure and entertainments which this representation of things has suggested against them already. Here, then, let us turn aside from this

gay scene ; and suffer me to take you with me for a moment to one much fitter for your meditation. Let us go into the house mourning, made so by such afflictions as have been brought in, merely by the common cross accidents and disasters to which our condition is exposed ;-where, perhaps, the aged parents sit broken-hearted, pierced to their souls with the folly and indiscretion of a thankless child, the child of their prayers, in whom all their hopes and expectations centered. Perhaps a more affecting scene :A virtuous family lying pinched with want, where the unfortunate support of it, having long struggled with a train of misfortunes, and bravely fought up against them, is now piteously borne down at the

* Preached in Lent.

last,-overwhelmed with a cruel blow which na forecast or frugality could have prevented 0 God! look upon his afflictions !

-Behold him distracted with many sorrows, surrounded with the tender pledges of his love, and the partner of his cares, --without bread to give them! unable, from the remembrance of better days, to dig ;-to beg, ashamed.

When we enter into the house of mourning, such as this, it is impossible to insult the unfortunate, even with an improper look. -Under whatever levity and dissipation of heart such objects catch our eyes--they catch likewise our attentions, collect and call home our scatter'd thoughts, and exercise them with wisdom. A transient scene of distress, such as is here sketched, how soon does it furnish materials to set the mind at work ! how necessarily does it engage it to the consideration of the miseries and misfortunes, the dangers and calamities to which the life of man is subject! By holding up such a glass before it, it forces the mind to see and reflect upon the vanity,--the perishing condition and uncertain tenure of every thing in this world. From reflections of this serious cast, how insensibly do the thoughts carry us farther !-and, from considering what we are,-what kind of world we live in, and what evils befall us in it, how naturally do they set us to look forwards at what possibly we shall be for what kind of world we are intended, what evils may befall us there,—and what provision we should make against them here, whilst we have time and opportunity.

If these lessons are so inseparable from the house of mourning here supposed we shall find it a still

more instructive school of wisdom when we take a view of the place in that more affecting light to which the wise man seems to confine it in the text'; in which, by the house of mourning, I believe, he means that particular scene of sorrow, where there is lamentation and mourning for the dead.

Turn in hither, I beseech you, for a moment. Behold a dead man ready to be carried out ; the only son of his mother, and she a widow ! Perhaps a more affecting spectacle :-a kind and indulgent fa. ther of a numerous family, liesbreathless ;-snatched away in the strength of his age ;-torn in an evil hour from his children and the bosom of a disconsolate wife!

Behold much people of the city gathered together, to mix their tears, with settled sorrow in their looks, going heavily along to the house of mourning, to perform that last melancholy office, which when the debt of nature is paid, we are called upon to pay to each other.

If the sad occasion which leads him there has not done it already, take notice to what a serious and devout' frame of mind every man is reduced the moment he enters this gate of affliction. The busy and fluttering spirits, which in the house of mirth were wont to transport him from one diverting object to another, see how they are fallen! how peaceably they are laid ! In this gloomy mansion, full of shades and uncomfortable damps lo seize the soul, see, the light and easy heart, which never knew what it was to think before, how pensive it is now! how soft! how susceptible ! how full of religious impressions! how deeply it is smitten with a sense and with a love of virtue! Could we, in this

« 前へ次へ »